Masterworks artist turns to kooky’ side
Most artists like to paint their grass green and skies blue.
Cartoonist Ted Michener prefers to keep things unpredictable.
He’s the artist-in-residence at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. The Canadian produces twice weekly editorial cartoons for a paper in St Andrews.
He’s continued while here, albeit with a new focus — what it’s like to be a “Canuck in Bermuda”.
Q: How did the opportunity come about for you to be Masterworks’ artist-in-residence?
A: Back in Canada, I own a seasonal restaurant on the Bay of Fundy [called The Gables Restaurant and Gallery]. It’s in a quaint little heritage village called St Andrews by-the-Sea. While my patrons patiently wait for their food to be delivered, they have a chance to view my paintings on the walls throughout the establishment. As luck would have it one day, a group from the Masterworks programme were perusing my works and asked me who did them. They then asked if I would submit some images for their committee’s approval for their artist-in-residence programme. After a five-second thought, I agreed to send some off. I was accepted and so here I am!
Q: What has your time been like so far? Have you been inspired by anything in particular?
A: My time here has been very refreshing in that I’ve focused totally on the job at hand in a safe, relaxing atmosphere.
Inspiration and visual stimuli are everywhere — from the distinct whitewashed roofing to the narrow serpentine roads. I should know about the roads as I’ve wiped out twice on my bicycle since arriving here — I have ten stitches more in my aching body. But still, who couldn’t be inspired by the ocean and the varied sea shores throughout the Island?
As Mark Twain or someone else once noted: “It’s heaven on earth, but it’s hell just getting here.” As for myself, I like to look beyond the trimmed and groomed and go for the real essence of the area I’m in. I look behind those facades and, lo and behold, there’s another subject! Yes there is certainly lots to paint — that’s for sure.
Q: How is a typical day spent since you’ve been here? Is most of your time spent in the studio or are you able to explore the Island?
A: Each morning, after losing yet another chess game on the internet, I head out for my studio, coffee in hand to paint for three hours before my first break.
After lunch I’m usually there in the “wet zone” on and off until 7pm. I call it the “wet zone” because anyone who ventures into my painting area is bound to find a dab of vermilion on their new cashmere when they get home.
Being attacked by the paint atoms is a given in my world here at the National Trust building that Masterworks rents for their visiting artists. I’m messy, what else can I say? “Enter at your own risk” should be papered on the sagging door outside.
Q: What would you say have been some of your favourite discoveries in Bermuda?
A: I haven’t had much time to explore the Island as I’m not allowed to drive while here, so transporting my oil paraphernalia by bus is not a good option.
However, Jill Raine, one of the Masterworks volunteers, has been taking us to and fro lately and it’s been wonderful to explore down some of these side roads that you can only wonder about from the window of a bus. Only yesterday, another friend, Gill Outerbridge, took us for a nautical tour in her boat.
So my wife Elaine and myself are seeing other perspectives that aren’t attainable by public transit. We’ve also been going out once a week with the plein air group and this is great fun and also gets us out and beyond.
I like painting buildings that have long been neglected They have character and their own beauty. We’ve been to a few of these locations and I’m also thrilled with some of the natural beauty of Bermuda’s parks that we’ve visited. Fort Hamilton with its harbour vista was terrific, although I painted a twisty root going up the driveway as my subject. Weird or what?
Q: Have you learned anything about yourself as an artist/person from your time here?
A: Being here as artist-in-residence has been a wonderful therapeutic experience. Being able to saunter on down to the easel and just create each day without any outside disturbances was amazing.
Back home, although I have a beautiful ocean-side studio, you’re always thinking about the next phone call or whatever. That can be a possible obstruction to your creative juices. Here my focus was to create and I trust the public will agree that I have done just that.
Q: Your exhibit opened on Friday. What can visitors expect?
A: Seeing that many talented accomplished artists in the plein air group could paint Bermuda buildings and crashing waves as well as can be done, I decided that my kooky side should come out and be displayed in my works. I’m also a cartoonist so I strove to show a more whimsical approach in my paintings while here.
Q: Why do you hope people will stop by and see your work? What do you hope they will leave with — inspiration, encouragement to do their own work?
A: I want patrons who come to the exhibit over the next two weeks to delight in a show that is diversified in approach and in topic choices. I was hoping to include some cartoons as well but alas, time has run out! I have been told that my work is different and that’s a good thing.
When anyone looks at my work I trust they’ll finally realise that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence, but you can make it orange — or pink! Whatever you wish, it’s within you ... let it come out.
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